Dumb questions, bad assumptions, & shameless self-aggrandizing

What does “swing hand” mean?

You can play any range you want, and really your range should be adjusted to the specific circumstances of the game you’re in. It’s mainly an abstract concept that can help you have discipline and structure in your game.

I see value in experimenting and exploring. Some games I’ve done well playing with a very wide range, but it all has to do with whether the dealer is generous with my hands postflop, which is a luck based approach, not a skill based one. But some games I just hit every hand, it seems. Or if I don’t, then the table is soft and I can bluff profitably.

Other times, no matter what range I play, I get screwed by the dealer, and every time hand is a mirage. I do well, if I can, by playing as few hands as possible. It’s still a luck based approach in that if I’m playing fewer hands, then I pretty much must win every time, and that depends mostly on the dealer’s generosity and my propensity to pick the right moment to bet, but if I am extremely tight, it helps that to happen. The main thing is that by playing fewer hands, I conserve chips, minimize risk, minimize mistakes, and let the rest of the table make their mistakes before I can make mine. I can do better against a short handed table with a small stack many times than I can against a full table even stacked, because the dealer’s a rotten scumbag who is always setting me up with hands that should be good early on, but end up being one disaster after another.

So if you asked me what my range is, I would have to say that don’t feel like I have a single range. I have a flexible concept of what range I should play, and it depends on the structure of the game, my stack size, how my luck has been running, and a bunch of other things. In other words, it isn’t written in stone, and I’ve never done your spreadsheet exercise, although I have to admit anything you can do to Poker with a spreadsheet piques my interest.

You can try being scientific and rigid with this stuff, and I think that’s worthwhile for educational purposes, but I suspect that coming out of it, you’ll probably conclude as I have that flexibility works better once you have a good grasp of the factors that should be influencing your range.

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That is the essence of what almost every old time player learned by the seat of their pants, sitting and playing–and, usually losing–thousands of hands. I usually call this “caution.”

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Indeed. I take it to an extreme sometimes, playing almost a 0% range, depending on how the table is playing, and how little love I’ve been getting from the dealer lately, and just bide my time. It’s usually good for at least a 2-4 place boost in my finish.

In my post above, I mentioned that how both of my approaches, loose and tight, were both luck-dependent strategies. This begs the question: what, then, is a skill dependent strategy?

I thought about that a bit.

Maybe this is a good way to put it: Luck is in the cards. Skill is in the reading the table and in your actions.

Luck is great to have on your side, and it’s a lot easier to hit good luck when you pick better starting cards. And picking the right starting cards doesn’t take a whole lot of skill. Really it’s just a matter of recognizing a few things about probability, learning that certain hands that may look good aren’t really that good, and just being generally tight about picking hands to play, not regretting mucking hands that end up hitting trips or straights when it wasn’t a good idea to play those hands.

Skill comes into how you size your bets, and when you decide to act, and how you decide to act.

  • Learning to size your bet preflop so that it can isolate a player who you can beat is one major skill.
  • Learning to size your bets so that you can still lay down a hand when you have to is a good skill.
  • Learning when you should raise, re-raise, and call a raise is a very important, and advanced, skill.
  • Learning the amount you should bet so that you can fold out drawing hands when you need to, build value when you need to, or take a pot with a bluff when you need to are all important skills.

All of this depends a great deal on your ability to read the table.

Reading the table means understanding the hand beyond your own hand’s strength and its likelihood to improve.

It means understanding the size of the pot relative to the size of the players still in the hand’s stacks, and how that’s likely to influence their decisions.

It means reading your opponents actions, and measuring them against their observed patterns and tendencies, to know whether their action is likely a sign that they are strong, or that they are weak.

Picking a range of cards to work with that is more likely to have good luck with hitting the board, or not needing to to win, is a great foundation to apply your poker skills. But it is the skill game that will win you tournaments and chips. Skill capitalizes on luck, manufactures luck, and can bamboozle an opponent to get them to sacrifice their own luck.


, post:30, topic:14212"]
What does “swing hand” mean?
About half the time, i run with JJ. The other half, i treat them like pretty 8s. You’re aware of the pros and cons with both ways to go. There are a few other hands that won’t always get automatic aggression from go but often are played slow and deliberately. I’m guessing 50/50. They’re not totally in a limp or open ange. Naw, i don’t buy it either. I was just messing around. Never hurts to have things look different, now and then, on the off chance someone is watching.
There is a reason i’m spending time learning this and other fundamentals. i suspect that once you have a good foundation in the game, experience will teach you where to bend the rules, create variations, and maybe rewrite one or two, temporarily. I have no dreams of turning pro, but would like to play with people who are good, without embarrassing myself.

Recently, I jumped into a MTT, a few minutes late, and these two guys give me all their chips, in back to back hands. Lucky for me, the first guy prepared my stack for the next guy, who’s contribution was somewhat larger. I assume it was from stealing some blinds, and maybe winning someone’s stack. I don’t remember what either had, but i do remember being confused. Not only did their hands not support he raise, but I was qualified both times, and opened appropriately. Anyway, here i am, 4 or 5 hands in, and i easily triple the 2nd place stack. I play conservatively, and the stack stays stable and dominant. Now the MTT is around 15 players, and i’m thinking "How cool would it be to be chip leader from basically the beginning of the tourney. to the end? could have been luck, mistakes, perhaps a convergence of the better players, or maybe it was the poker voodoo that was unleashed the moment i thought about chips i hadn’t won yet. next time i happen to check, i was in 6th, and crashing. I barely make final table with enough chips to be the first one gone. Wait. If we aren’t thinking about chips we haven’t won yet, why play the game? Doesn’t matter. the poker voodoo creatures got other stuff to get me for.

[quote=“puggywug, post:30, topic:14212”]
So if you asked me what my range is, I would have to say that don’t feel like I have a single range.
When i first started hearing of a range of poker hands, i thought maybe experienced players had a precise list of hands, they must have, for each function they might perform with the hand. limp, open, 3-bet, limp behind, raise IP, raise OOP, ect, ect., all tuned to your seat at the table. That didn’t seem reasonable without years of playing a lot of hands, which i don’t have. Then I thought maybe a single list of hands that you might play, with limits, or markers that would designate which hands on the list i must have in order to perform one of the functions of the hand which may or may not be on the list.
Lately WantabeCoder has me looking at it from a different perspective. I guess there are smart people who devised a system that equates percentage points to various perils and tribulations that come with playing holdem poker. Word is, it works The percentage points are derived from the percentage of combinations that can exist within the range, in relation to the 2 card combos that exist in a deck. now i’m dealing with finite numbers, the number of combinations allowed. the lower the percentage, the tighter the range. Now you’re not looking at individual hands, but what of combos might be chosen to fit in that 13% box, er, range. There’s more to know, and that’s the dumbed down version, but that’s what i got from it. Wantabe, if you read this, set me straight, if need be.
TBH the reason i really need a range is i like to gamble. helps keep me from wanting to go for it, let it ride, put it all on black.
i set the sheet to anyone can edit. all it really does is convert hands to combinations and tracks the percentage being used. if you want to play with it, the link is


From 7:07 to 27:48 for MTT ranges

“About half the time, i run with JJ. The other half, i treat them like pretty 8s”

I don’t know what either of these means. Does “run with” mean open? Shove? How does one treat a pair of pretty 8s? Limp-Check/fold if you don’t flop a set?

But I gather that a “swing” hand means you can play them one way or another, depending on… whatever, the table situation?

I guess most any hand I consider playing is a swing hand, if that’s the definition.

Before we talk about whether those are good ranges, @waidus, I’ll ask a fairly basic question… why have a limp range at all?

The typical reason to limp hands would be to grow the number of hands you can play preflop. It becomes cheaper for you to see a flop, so you can play a wider range. However, that comes with a significant cost.

Let’s take the ranges you outlined above. Your limp, swing, and open ranges comprise nearly 19% of your overall range. Of those, 7.9% are limps, 5.3% are “swing,” and 5.6% are open. What if you were to completely axe your limp range, combine your swing range and open range, and only play those as opens? You’ll end up playing far fewer hands, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Think about how it will make you to play against.

When you limp, then I should 3-bet you - even out of position - with anything stronger than AJo. That’s because I’ll be either a coin flip or far ahead of your entire limp and swing range. Against strong players, who will realize how weak your limping range is, you’ll end up throwing away the blinds too often for it to be a profitable move, since players behind you will often have a hand that weak. It also helps you get less value from your open range, pulling some of the strong hands that should be opening into a limp range.

Now, let’s consider the three ranges you put together, and whether they’re well-constructed: Open, Open+Swing, and Open+Swing+Limp.

Open: 5.6% of hands
Pocket pairs comprise just 24% of this range, which seems low. Strong suited hands are 27% - probably about right, or maybe a touch low - while unsuited hands are nearly half of the hands. I’d include TT and JJ and cut KQo to compensate, which would boost your pocket pairs to 41% of this range. I might also add 99 and either ATs or KJs while dropping AQo, but YMMV.

Open+Swing: 10.9% of hands
Pocket pairs are just 24/144 = 17% of this range, and offsuit hands are 58% of the range. You’re getting even more unbalanced here. Add more pocket pairs, while removing the weaker offsuit hands. At this point, you might want to add some suited wheel hands as bluffs, like A5s or A4s, which I prefer to QTs.

Open+Swing+Limp: 18.6% of hands
You should have all pocket pairs in your range here. Would you really rather hold 98s than 77? Drop the weak offsuit broadways, like QTo and JTo, to compensate.

Once you understand how to construct a range, you need to figure out when to play those ranges. A quick shortcut is to estimate the likelihood that your hand is better than everyone else’s, going a bit tighter if potential stronger hands will have position on you, and looser if you have position on them. For example, UTG 9-handed, you’ll have the best hand 1/9=11.1% of the time, but most of the players that might have better hands will be playing after you, so you’ll need to tighten up. I’d use something closer to an 8% range here.

What if someone before you raises? Well, let’s imagine that UTG opens and it folds to you on the button. If he’s playing an 8% range, you’ll need to at least match the strength of his range, you also have two players after you that could potentially have strong hands, and you’ll have position on all three after the flop. I’d look to 3-bet something like a 5% range here.

Does that make sense?

That’s a fairly accurate reading of what I’ve written so far. Pros will have an intuitive sense of what their ranges look like and how tight or loose they should be in certain spots; the rest of us need to do the off-the-table work in order to get there.

Ultimately, we can’t just have one range. That would lead to us over-folding in some spots, or over-calling/over-raising in others. We need to adapt the size of our range to the action before us and the potential action after us, while constructing our ranges to have a blend of strong made hands, strong drawing hands, and bluffs.

I entered a low entry tourney, yesterday, planning for it to be the last of the evening.
You may have read one of my posts about how ridiculously lucky i get sometimes. Back when i was a really loose with my calls, and it happened, i could feel how unpopular i was at the table, not to mention the comments. Even the nice people were disgusted. A little embarrassing, actually.
Well, this wasn’t one of those times. I folded the first couple of orbits, seeing 2 face cards, both Q trash. All my blinds were raised before me, so they got folded, too.
Over the next few orbits, I limped in a couple of 75s, an 85s, KJ, and a pair of 6s, but nothing got pass the flop.
The KJ just happened to come up right after a pop-up from forums, commenting on what a poor choice that hand is. However, I was BB and unraised, so I checked it in, only to fold to a raise when I didn’t improve and an A flopped.
Next comes another fold marathon. I must have set a record for 52o.
Now, i’m down to 5 or 6 BB, and KJo comes up again. I shove, and get called by K6. I don’t improve. He pairs the 6.
For some reason, i still have 193 chips. The next hand is A3o. I shove, and suck out a straight. This is to be my only win, and only the 2nd hand to get past the flop.
Must be becase i got better at folding. I’ve never sat at a table for so long, and get NOTHING. Even my folded hands remained dogs. The A3 was my only A.
Maybe luck does equal out, after all.

I get the strong made hands, strong drawing hands, and the need to adapt to table position, and table play, but still can’t connect to how bluffing affects your hand choices to fill a range.
I seldom stone cold bluff, but semi-bluff a lot, sometimes. Especially if i’ve been able to show only winners at showdown, and have been keeping my sizing consistent. Still, i don’t really plan to bluff. I see opportunities, and go for it, depending on the board, my image, and my perception of table play.
Am i looking at this all wrong?

I was just looking through my best hands, and was surprised to find i caught a royal flush, once. No memory, whatsoever, of getting it, even after watching the replay. However, i remember all to well, watching the board show quads, turning my fours full of nines into quad fours, with a nine kicker. losing to an A. What’s up with that? Should saving 5 losses for every win, be telling me something?

I’mmmmm playing the low stakes again
playing the low stakes again
every big bet that i tank
sends me begging from the bank
I’m playing the low stakes again

It’s natural to fixate on the hands you lose. Victories are fleeting, and are what’s “supposed” to happen, so they don’t stick in the mind as much as a bad beat or badly played hand that costs you a lot of chips.

It’s good to study both the hands you win and the hands you lose, in order to improve your game. You can learn from your mistakes. Some hands you win for a big pot are good outcomes on bad play, and some lost hands are played perfectly and yet have a bad outcome. Sometimes when you win, you don’t get as many chips as you could have if you had played the hand better. There’s always something to learn, and sometimes the lessons aren’t apparent when the hand is fresh, but when you go back later you can pick up things you couldn’t see at the time when you had less experience. I think it’s probably better to focus on your bad plays and mistakes and close holes in your game first. It’s one of the reasons I post so many hands where I lose (and lose because I made a mistake) on these forums, and not so many hands where I played brilliantly.

This is certainly what I did when I decided to get serious about improving. One of the more recent examinations I did was put together six 13x13 range boxes in a spreadsheet with guidance on decision-making via a code. Through live play and mock-up hands by myself, I’ve been able to see what works and what doesn’t.

I always like to have some kind decent hand when I decide to see a flop, but also realize that I can’t trap myself in a box. What I’ll end up doing is taking a more marginal hand within my range that I’d fold or play more passively, and instead play it more aggressively. Great if I hit with it. It’s also not too bad if the board shows a more “normal” range that people see me play, because I can try to bluff with it.

One of the best lessons I’ve learned through all of this is to avoid playing the same situation the same way all the time. If you play predictably, you’re gonna have a bad time.

So, yesterday, i have 2 OESDs hit, and lose, as well as As and Qs, and a set, to flush draws that hit. When you factor in the flush draws i had, that didn’t hit, I figured i’m owed several flush draws that don’t hit for them, and at least one that hits for me.
This was my thinking when i limped Td 6d in from the SB.
when i hit a losing streak, I don’t mess around.

I just finished reading a thread about pot limits, and how they are derived. one poster had problems understanding, so the rules were explained, several times, in detail, with real hand examples. Suddenly, i’m getting visions of doyle’s early days, with the dealer putting down the deck to pull out the slide rule. Ahhh, so that’s why no limit is so popular.

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Yes, that or fixed limit where all bets are preset increments. Sort of makes me nostalgic (but, I’m old enough to remember those games).

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Fizzy locked that topic stating “things are getting a little derailed now, I’m going to close the topic”.
Let’s not rehash it here.

I used a post of my stats, from a month ago, to come up with my stats for the last month.

09/19/19 10/16/19 last month %
Total hands played: 53700 62216 8516
Hands folded: 62.00% 33136 39052 5916 69
Flops seen: 31775 35809 4034
While in big blind: 7111 8155 1044
While in small blind: 6547 7394 847
While not paying blind: 18117 20260 2143
Pots Won: 18.00% 9743 11122 1379 16
At showdown: 65.00% 6303 7055 752 55
Without showdown: 35.00% 3440 4067 627 45

I’m not really sure what this should be telling me, except maybe lowering my value bets?
just looking at the numbers, the flops seen bewilders me, There’s no way i saw the flop in nearly half the hands i played. The first part of this period, i was having the worst losing streak i’ve ever had. There were tournaments which i didn’t win a single hand. One, i could remember every hand i played, in the 46 minutes i lasted.

What I take away from this is that you’re seeing way too many flops.

Let’s start with the ratio of flops seen when in the small blind to flops seen when in the big blind. At about 81%, this tells me you’re being far too passive, probably limping most of your small blinds. You need to fold off your small blind way more often, since you’ll be out of position postflop, making it more difficult to recognize your equity and gain value when you hit a good hand.

My guess is that you see a flop from the big blind in the vicinity of 95% of the time. You probably rarely get a walk, and when you do face aggression, most of the time it’s easy enough to defend that you do. Also, you probably rarely choose to bet your big blind aggressively and take down the pot preflop. If my guess is accurate, on average, you’re one of 7.75 players at the table - consistent with typically playing 9-handed, with occasional bust-outs and shorter-handed games.

Assuming that assumption holds, you’re still seeing 2,143 flops out of the roughly 6,318 hands when you’re not in the blinds. Nearly 8-handed, seeing one out of every three flops when you’re not in the blinds is WAY too many. You aren’t playing nearly as tight as you think you are - confirmed by the limped weak hands you’ve recently posted.

As a point of comparison, I’ve seen 6,395 flops when not paying a blind, fewer than the 8,042 flops seen when I’ve been in the big blind, but more than the 5,732 flops seen when I’ve been in the small blind. That’s out of nearly 50K total hands played. Yes, I’m probably being overly tight in later positions facing a sea of limpers, but it works for me.

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Bounty Brawl. 7,500 buy in MTT 6/6 seats playing
Blinds 150/300
UTG, CO, and Btn limp
SB calls with image
BB checks
OK, i limped in the pair. I didn’t feel comfortable betting 3-5 BB on a hand i was probably folding, the following street. However, I’m looking at better than 10:1 pot odds, to play, so i just called.
Flop (1,680) image
SB checks. Table checks around
Being in slowplay mode, I checked the set faster than i should have. As soon as i did, I was hoping someone would bet, so i could x/r. I still got a little info, even tho i missed betting the street. 55, JJ, and J5 are probably raising here. I guess they could be doing the same thing i’m doing. but at this point, I’m feeling pretty confident that my set is well disguised, and the best hand, as long as i don’t see another club
turn (1,680) image
SB bets 840, BB and CO call
Ahhhh, the gravy. Even tho i could still be looking at a slow boating JJ, J5, or J4, I’m now hoping flush draws hit, and i may be holding a set vs trips, my favorite scenario in poker.
I’ve missed betting the flop, so i need to get chips in the middle, so i bet 1/2 pot (840).
Was this a mistake? I don’t want to run off draw hands that I’m beating, but if trip Jacks are out there, that’s a shot at somebody’s stack. Perhaps a pot bet would have folded the flush draw, but get JJJ more pot committed, and susceptible to a pot bet on the river.
River (4,200) image
SB bets 1/2 pot (2,100)
BB folds
CO calls, and mucks
The A is a little scary, as now AJ also beats me. Looking back, i wish i had gotten more chips in the middle. 1/2 pot river bet might have been fine, had i bet pot on the turn. maybe the smaller bet on the turn, to keep the draw hand in, then pot on the river, after the draw was through paying out. At any rate, i feel like i didn’t get near the value from the hand that i should have.
all comments welcome